Will Self on being ennobled in the New Year's honours list
- Credit: Ryan Lackey
WILL SELF on receiving a New Year's honour.
Look, I realise that talk of a ‘happy new year’ must be anathema to readers of The New European this week: what with Britain ending its transition period with the European Union like some bizarre giant plague ship, under the captaincy of a erstwhile hack with a flair for rhetorical hyperbole and little else. But nevertheless, I do have some glad tidings: I have been ennobled in a New Year’s honours list. Obviously not in the New Year’s honours list – why would my name appear on that, I’m not a Tory party donor or a frontline NHS worker, the two groups almost certain to reap the majority of gongs this year. Nor have I managed to export much in 2020 – apart from the occasional article or essay, some of which have been pretty critical of, um, the British Royals.
In truth, I’m not quite the republican firebrand I once was – in our fractured times there is considerable merit in a Head of State who commands widespread respect, while hopefully repressing any further urges our real governors may have to indulge in ill-advised constitutional tinkering. That being said, the mummery and flummery associated with the Royals’ Ruritanian fantasy of themselves makes me feel nauseous. For my own part I couldn’t bend my knee to any of the top team, given the meagreness of their personal accomplishments. I know a few people who’ve turned down honours; my friend and mentor, the late JG Ballard, told me he was offered a CBE, but declined it when the committee told him he wouldn’t be allowed to style himself ‘Commander Ballard’.
I’m not sure how I’m allowed to style myself now I’ve been ennobled – but Lord Self would seem most appropriate. I once sat next to the late Edna Healey at a lunch, and was surprised to see ‘Lady Healey’ written on her place card. "Surely as a socialist you shouldn’t assume a title based clearly on might-as-right?" I twitted her, and she snapped back: "I never use it in ordinary life." So I re-snapped: "This is ordinary life – you’re having lunch." I do have a couple of friends who’ve been knighted – but I’ve never said a word about it to either of them, taking the line that it’s more or less equivalent to having psoriasis: both embarrassing and revolting to look at – so surely not the sort of thing you’d like remarked upon.
Even so, I expect those who’ve received titles from their sovereign must feel particularly proud this January – given 2021 will go down in history as the year in which her subjects have so clearly asserted their own sovereignty. If you’re a knight of this realm you may think no longer being incorporated in the European Union lends your escutcheon more lustre. You aren’t just a weird hangover from feudalism but a harbinger of a brave new world. It’s only embittered malcontents like me who point out that if you have been ennobled in the New Year’s honours list it’s probably because you’ve paid for it, cash down. Moreover, it’s only defeatist pessimists – again, like me – who further observe that you’ve become a Lord or a Lady just in time to witness a once-great nation reduced to the status of some fly-speck landmass whose claim to any significance at all rests on exactly such dubious activities as flogging absurd titles.
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At least the nation that’s ennobled me – the Principality of Sealand – knows it’s a fly-speck of a landmass, while making no bones at all about selling titles; check out their website for a price list: www.sealandgov.org. Located seven nautical miles east of the English coastline in an abandoned Second World War gun fort, Sealand was ‘founded’ in 1967 by Roy Bates, a former British army major. Bates used the doctrines of res derelict and terra nullis to establish Sealand’s claim to independence; and either because the successive British governments have recognised they have no jurisdiction over the old fort, or because they can’t be arsed, the Bates family have continued to rule their 0.004 square kilometre demesne to this day. The current ruler – Bates’s son, Michael – styles himself ‘Prince Regent’ of Sealand, and it’s he who authorised my Registration Deed.
You may be wondering how I feel now I’ve been hoiked up the social scale by means a few quid. Well, the British royal family’s motto – written rather ironically in Norman French – is ‘Dieu et Mon Droit’; which can be loosely translated as: ‘We own you, bitches’. By contrast, the motto of the right, tight little island I now cleave to is ‘E Mare, Libertas’: ‘From the sea, freedom’. I know which sentiment I find more appealing – and it’s one the Brexit faction should as well. I know, you’re thinking we Lords of Sealand are, by definition, a pretty non-egalitarian bunch, but mark this, and mark it well (that’s the sort of expression lords use): Sealand doesn’t sell citizenship the way Britain does, so we’re effectively a nation of nobles rather than commoners. Envious, aren’t you?
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